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Sexual Transmission & Prevention

Zika and Sex: What It Means for Pregnancy

  • Zika virus can be passed from a pregnant woman to her fetus.
  • Zika infection during pregnancy can cause a birth defect called microcephaly and other severe brain defects.
  • Pregnant couples at risk for Zika should use condoms or not  have sex for their entire pregnancy.
  • Couples at risk for Zika who intend to get pregnant should learn how to protect themselves.

Zika Can Be Passed Through Sex

  • Zika can be passed through sex from a person with Zika to his or her partners.
    • Sex includes vaginal, anal, and oral sex and the sharing of sex toys.
    • Zika can be passed through sex even in a committed relationship.
    • The timeframes that men and women can pass Zika through sex are different because Zika virus can stay in semen longer than in other body fluids.

Infected People Can Pass Zika Through Sex Even When They Don’t Have Symptoms

  • Many people infected with Zika virus won’t have symptoms or will only have mild symptoms, and they may not know they have been infected.
  • Zika can also be passed from a person before their symptoms start, while they have symptoms, and after their symptoms end.

How to Protect Yourself During Sex

	illustration of a box of condoms

  • Condoms can reduce the chance of getting Zika from sex.
    • Condoms include male and female condoms.
    • To be effective, condoms should be used from start to finish, every time during vaginal, anal, and oral sex and the sharing of sex toys
    • Dental dams may also be used for certain types of oral sex (mouth to vagina or mouth to anus).
  • Not sharing sex toys can also reduce the risk of spreading Zika to sex partners.
  • Not having sex eliminates the risk of getting Zika from sex.

Recommendations for Where You Travel or Live

Pregnant Couples
Both partners need to take precautions!
Traveling to an area with risk of Zika
  • Pregnant women should NOT travel to areas with risk of Zika. If a pregnant woman must travel to one of these areas, she should talk to her healthcare provider first. Learn more about protecting your pregnancy.
  • If a pregnant woman or her partner travel to an area with risk of Zika, the couple should use condoms from start to finish every time they have sex or not have sex for the entire pregnancy. This is important, even if the traveler does not have symptoms of Zika or feel sick.
Living in an area with risk of Zika
  • Pregnant couples should use condoms from start to finish every time they have sex, or they should not have sex for the entire pregnancy.
Couples Interested in Pregnancy
  • Women and their partners who are trying to or are interested in becoming pregnant need protect themselves from Zika infection.
  • Couples who are trying to or interested in becoming pregnant should discuss their plans for pregnancy with a healthcare provider to determine their risk and the options available.
Couples Who Are Not Pregnant and Not Trying to Become Pregnant
  • Anyone concerned about getting or passing Zika through sex should consider taking precautions, especially because nearly half of all pregnancies (45%) in the United States are unintended.
  • If either partner develops symptoms of Zika or has concerns, they should talk to a healthcare provider.
Traveling to an area with risk of Zika
Men and women traveling in an area with risk of Zika should consider using condoms every time they have sex or not have sex while traveling.
If a couple has a male partner and
only he travels to an area with risk of Zika

The couple should consider using condoms or not having sex for at least 6 months

  • After the male partner returns, even if he doesn’t have symptoms, or
  • From the start of the male partner’s symptoms or the date he was diagnosed with Zika.
If a couple has a female partner and
only she travels to an area with risk of Zika

The couple should consider using condoms or not having sex for at least 8 weeks

  • After the female partner returns from to an area with risk of Zika, even if she doesn’t have symptoms, or
  • From the start of the female partner’s symptoms or the date she was diagnosed with Zika.
If the couple contains both a male and female
partner and both travel to an area with risk of Zika

The couple should consider using condoms or not having sex for at least 6 months

  • After returning from an area with risk of Zika, even if they don’t have symptoms, or
  • From the start of either partner’s symptoms or from the date either were diagnosed with Zika.
  • If either partner develops symptoms of Zika or has concerns, they should talk to a healthcare provider.
Living in an area with risk of Zika
Uninfected couples living in an area with risk of Zika can use condoms or not have sex if they are concerned with passing or getting Zika through sex.

Decisions about having sex and using condoms depend on each person’s understanding of the risks and benefits, including

  • The mild nature of the illness for many people
  • Their possible exposure to mosquitoes while in an area with Zika
  • Their plans for pregnancy (if appropriate) and access to birth control
  • Their access to condoms
  • Their desire for intimacy, including willingness to use condoms or not have sex
  • Their ability to use condoms or not have sex
  • If either partner develops symptoms of Zika or has concerns, they should talk to a healthcare provider.

Testing

Testing is not recommended to determine how likely a person is to pass Zika virus through sex. For more information see Testing and Zika.
 


Zika and Sex: What It Means for Pregnancy

  • Zika virus can be passed from a pregnant woman to her fetus.
  • Zika infection during pregnancy can cause a birth defect called microcephaly and other severe brain defects.
  • Pregnant couples at risk for Zika should use condoms or not  have sex for their entire pregnancy.
  • Couples at risk for Zika who intend to get pregnant should learn how to protect themselves.

Additional Resources

Zika and Sex: Information for men who have pregnant partners and live in or recently traveled to areas with Zika

Zika and Sex: Information for pregnant women living in areas with Zika

Pregnant and living in an area with Zika?

Zika and Sexual Transmission: For People Whose Partner Traveled to an Area with Zika

Zika and Sexual Transmission: For People Living in an Area with Zika

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